General Safety & Storage of Essential Oils
The following is a general guide to health, safety and storage of essential oils. You can also download it as a PDF: General Safety and Storage of Essential Oils (pdf)
Key Safety Information
Essential Oils are highly concentrated chemical compounds that are flammable and also volatile (which means they evaporate when exposed to oxygen). It is therefore really important to follow some simple safety information.
Do not apply essential oils direct to the skin. Always dilute essential oils in a carrier solution (See blending notes below for more information).
Essential oils are for external use only; do not ingest.
Avoid contact with the eyes.
Keep out of reach of children and pets.
If in doubt, patch test first (see below for details).
Each essential oil has its own safety information which is called a contraindication. Please always check this information prior to use.
When you buy essential oils they come in a nice small, tightly sealed, dark glass bottle. This is important to think about with the following key guidelines for storage –
- Keep in a cool, dark and dry place away from direct sunlight
- Keep in a dark glass bottle – brown/amber is the best colour and dark blue is also fine
- Ensure bottles are tightly stoppered
- Always replace caps/tops and put the correct caps onto the correct bottles
- Keep bottles out of reach of children and animals
Good places to store them are in a wooden box, cupboard, drawers of a dressing table, bedside table, or bathroom cabinet.
I keep mine in special boxes or travel wallets on my bookcase, desk or cupboard away from direct sunlight.
Blending & Diluting
Always dilute essential oils in a carrier solution (vegetable/carrier oils, milk, salt or vodka for example). Please do not apply to the skin direct.
Recommended dilution quantities –
- 1% essential oil dilution = 1 drop per 5ml or 2 drops per 10ml etc (recommended for elderly, frail, children under 4 y.o. and during pregnancy)
- 2% essential oil dilution = 2 drops per 5ml or 4 drops per 10ml etc (normal fit, strong, healthy, well individuals)
- 3% essential oil dilution = 3 drops per 5ml or 6 drops per 10ml etc (for local area application only i.e. application to a specific part / small area of the body only)
Essential oils can also damage work surfaces, wooden tables, furniture and clothing
- Cover surfaces with a cloth or kitchen roll to avoid ruining any surfaces as a result of spillage.
- Use a tray when blending solutions
- I would advise that you always use an apron and rubber gloves to avoid direct contact with the skin and any possible damage to clothing.
Shelf Life – this varies
A mix that you have blended consisting of essential oils and carrier solution will last for as long as the carrier solution will last – usually 4-6 months
- Please note that water does not last very long (a few days).
- If you are using water for body sprays, you can add some alcohol (e.g. vodka) which extends the shelf life significantly i.e. for up to 2-3 years.
- Perfume blends using 100% alcohol based solution diluted with oils will last several years.
- If you are using a water based solution, please shake each time before using. Essential oils are not soluble in water.
- Label your blends immediately – it’s important to remember the ingredients
- Use the more hazardous essential oils in low dilutions. (See below for some examples)
- High blood pressure – avoid rosemary, hyssop, and thyme
- Epilepsy – avoid rosemary, fennel, sage, hyssop
- Sensitivities and allergies – hayfever, asthma. Err on the side of caution – recommend 1% dilution only to start with (please see below for details)
- Pregnancy – please seek advice because there are many oils contraindicated for pregnancy. 1% dilution is recommended only (please see below for details)
- Elderly, Frail and very young children – under 4 years old – 1% dilution only (please see below for details)
- Phototoxicity / Photosensitivity – oils that that contain furocoumarins – chemicals that make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. Sunburn will occur if exposed to sunlight. This group is largely restricted to citrus oils – Lemon, Lime, Bergamot, Orange, Mandarin, and Tangerine. Grapefruit is a citrus oil that is “not” phototoxic and therefore not included in this list.
NB – You can buy Bergamot FCF which is not phototoxic because it has had the chemical removed that makes Bergamot phototoxic – Bergaptene.
Irritation is usually damage to the skin, redness and/or a burning sensation followed by inflammation as a result of using essential oils. This will arise very quickly and the severity will vary greatly.
- In the event that irritation does occur, immediately apply vegetable oil to the affected area and remove with a cloth or paper towel (clean ones). Repeat 3-6 times.
- The oils most likely to cause irritation are oils like Lemongrass, Dwarf Pine, Origanum, Red Thyme (contain carvacol and thymol), Cinnamon, Citrus & Pine oils. These oil contain high levels of phenols and Aldehydes.
- Always dilute essential oils including when using them in a bath – milk, alcohol, carrier oil or bath salts are best.
Prepare a dilution of one drop of essential oil in a teaspoon of carrier/vegetable oil, apply to inner forearm, and cover with a waterproof plaster for 24-48 hours. If there is not reaction, then you should be fine to use the oil following the safety advice. For a more precise answer though, repeat twice more. If sensitisation occurs, discontinue immediately, avoid use in the future.
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